Sunday, April 18, 2010

best fragrances for Mothers' Day gifts

mom flowers A well thought-out perfume could be the best Mothers Day gift choice ever if you follow a few simple guidelines. Your mom will be flattered and happy that you took the time to seek out a custom scent you know she will love,  and it is one of those gifts that keep gibing; every time your mom spritzes on that fragrance she is sure to think of you lovingly. Before you go shopping, take a few minutes to think about the following items, and you are sure to choose a perfume that pleases mom!
      • determine whether your mom is a romantic or a classic or a minimalist, a sensualist or a prude, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. For example,  a sensualist may be more drawn to musky fragrances, but if your mom was too shy to give you the ‘birds and bees talk’ and never divulged her secret hopes and desires in your memory, you might consider sticking with florals
  • has she ever mentioned a smell she particularly loves? You can search Basenotes database for those specific notes. For example, if you remember having heard her mention that she loves the smells of cedar, roses, and vanilla, search Basenotes for examples of fragrances that contain all those notes (my search found 140 results of fragrances containing all those notes!)
  • If you can’t remember her mentioning any smells she loves, what kinds of fragrances mom kitchendoes she use to scent her home? What flavor of dish soap? does she have scented candles? what is the name of her laundry detergent. Taking stock of all these household fragrances could let you know what categories of scent she likes. For example, think about whether her dishsoap is lemony, herbal, minty, floral, or unscented. her choice could lead you towards a fragrance category.
  • Do you have a favorite dish she prepared for you when you were young? My mom made a delicious rice pudding, filled with vanilla and cinnamon, so I might present her with a fragrance I found that features those notes, explaining that it reminds me of her unique cooking and how happy I was when I was little

    Has she a favorite scent that she can no longer find or that has been discontinued? Can you find a big bottle of it on ebay?
  • does she garden? If so, are there any particularly fragrant flowers in her garden,  or flowers she’s 054_19A particularly proud of?
  • does her mother wear a ‘signature’ fragrance? Can you buy that for her? This is not the most creative option, but it’s a safe bet.
  • is the bottle itself attractive; will she feel like you ‘splurged’ on her and thus enjoy the luxury of using your gift? This means—excepting only the most specific of cases—that you must avoid celebrity scents, which can come across as cheap and ‘mainstream.’
  • make sure to think carefully about scents your mom doesn’t like, or that upset her. My mother hates the smell of aldehydes (the bubbly-smelling synthetic element used most famously in Chanel no. 5) and often gets carsick when she smells them, so any perfume I bought her would need to lay off the aldehydes.
Remember, the most important thing here is not the fragrance itself, but the fact that you, her loving son/daughter, took the time to think about and locate that special bottle. Be sure to spin a narrative that relates to your mother why you chose x perfume over all other choices. In my case, I might say: “I have been thinking about your delicious rice pudding lately and remembering all the times you nourished me when I was young. I found this scent (let’s say I give her Hermessence Ambre Narguile by Jean-Claude Ellena, which smells like vanilla, cream, tobacco, and raisins) and it reminded me so much of a bowl of your comforting rice pudding that I just had to give it to you, to let you know how much your love over the years means to me”…etc. You probably get my point.

I hope this little guide will be useful as you navigate the vast world of perfume to find the right thing for your mother this Mother’s Day.  Good luck, and happy hunting!

My birthday pilgrimage

Today is my birthday, April 18th, and I have always found it significant that it also happens to be the day that the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales set out on their pilgrimage, “the holy Blissful martir for to seke/ that hem hath holpen whan that they were seke.” As a medievalist, I love it that I share my special day (well, at least the day of my birth) with one of the greatest compositions in the English language, as well as the fact that the tales open with an invocation of springtime and rebirth, an idea that I am always in love with this time of year:
"Whan that Aprille with his shoores soote/ the dorughte of March hath perced to the roote/ and bathed every veyne in swich licour, / of which vertu engendred is the flour...and smalle foweles maken melodye / that slepen all the nyght with open eye/ So priketh hem Nature in hir corages, / Than longen foolk to goon on pilgrimages /And palmeres for to seken straunge strandes / to ferne halwes, kouthe in sondry londes."  



 I keep trying to convince my husband that it is deeply significant that he was born on Shakespeare’s birth and death day (and Cervantes’ birthday as well) but he doesn’t seem that impressed ; ).  Whatever the case, like the birds and creatures awakening from their winter hibernation in the Prologue of the Canterbury tales, I feel a deep urge to procreate, to feel the sun and rain on my skin, and to travel, to ‘seek out strange and sundry strands’—or, to put it more prosaically, to get out of dodge.



 Anyway, I bring all this up because I am preparing to go on my own little pilgrimage, an aesthetic pilgrimage, to the Big Apple for six days this week. I hope to soak up as much culture (and fragrance) as possible before heading back to my little upstate NY town. I am planning to catch Renee Fleming as Armida at the Metropolitan Opera and La Traviata, and have dinner at my favorite Apulian restaurant I Trulli, catch the exhibition of The Mourners at the Met, and a host of other activities—like dim sum at my favorite Chinatown restaurant and Ethiopian at The Queen of Sheba--



but you are probably only reading this for the fragrance info, so I will map out my plan for my fragrance extravaganza. On Wednesday, it’s off to Brooklyn, first to the Botanical Gardens to check out and smell all the blooming things and hone my nose, then to CB I hate perfumes for sensory overload and back to the fragrance district to do some shopping. Then a trip to at least some of my favorite boutiques; Caron, Bond No. 9, l’Artisan, Aedes de Venustas, and Henri Bendel. And Bigelow Chemists, which I have never visited



And, of course, no trip to the Big Apple can be complete without some serious sniffing time at Bergdorf Goodman. Jealous yet? Anyone have any other recommendation for a non-native perfumista in the big city?

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